Saturday, November 19, 2016

Ways to be Productively Sexist and Racist online

Ways to be Productively Sexist and Racist online

I have moderated online forums for about 15 years or so.  Here are some hints you can use to help you understand whether you value communication, or your trolling...
  1. Be wary of engaging with people who are different from you when you’re trying to appeal to your ‘own kind’.  Know better than to attempt to convince those who are very different from you.   Remember that there are issues that are a priority to your group only.
  2. Take note of any personal details of ‘social media posters’ before you engage with them. This means not just their race, but their gender, status, religion and how they speak.  Communication doesn’t happen in a contextual vacuum, so check in on your starting point.  
  3. Even people who share your groupings (gender, race, religion, status) may not be ‘your people’.  Be mindful of why you are speaking to them and set your tone, wording and arguments to that purpose.
  4. If you do engage, then don’t behave the same way as you do when speaking to your own group.  Pay special attention to your language and be sure to align it with the purpose of your communication.
  5. Generally, don’t try to ‘explore’ issues such as race and gender with strangers who are in a different group from yours.  You and the stranger do not make a cultural science research team.  You are not wearing a lab coat and neither is your debate partner.  They are a stranger and you have nothing in common with them.  
  6. Don’t presume your lack of sexism or racism will protect you from ‘offending’ others, or setting a foot wrong in the discussion.
  7. A lot of internet talk is “snowflakes vs. deplorables”.  If you are engaging with a someone from a group that you disrespect, then check in: are you trying to convince them or berate them ?  If it’s the former, then you are facing some major barriers: try to incorporate their own values in the discussion. 
  8. When speaking to others that are not your own kind, listen for hints at cultural values that you may share with your discussion partner.  That connection may happen rarely, but you can use those common points to build a discussion.
  9. If you are trying to engage across a cultural gap, consider starting with a quick and easy setting of framework, ex. “I’m want to tell you what I think - do you want to hear it ?” “I’m here to listen, and maybe ask questions, ok ?”  If you state your purposes honestly and get agreement, you may actually end up achieving the rare meeting-of-minds moment across such gaps.  Good luck.


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